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Truck underride accident protection inadequate

Dramatic video has been released suggesting that the current safety standards in place to prevent truck underride accidents are not working. Underride accidents occur when a car strikes the back of a semi-truck and slides underneath, and cause more than 350 fatalities in this country each year.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety tested the performance of rear impact guards, which are supposed to stop cars before they slide under the truck, and found that the guards often fall off, even at low speeds.

In its testing, the Institute took a 2010 Chevy Malibu traveling at 35 miles per hour and crashed it into the back of parked semi-trailers. Each time, the rear impact guards meeting current safety standards fell off, allowing the car to be crushed as it slid under the trailer. The Institute said that nobody in the vehicle would have survived.

Now the Institute is pressing the federal government for tighter standards, saying that the aftermath of these accidents don't need to be as severe as they typically are, and certainly don't need to result in fatalities. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration responded with a statement saying "it is well aware of the scope and severity of the truck underride issue," and that "[they] are already actively working to address the issues."

However, finding the right standards for the guards appears to be a tough egg to crack. In fact, last time the government took up the issue of underride safety it took 20 years to settle on a standard.

After seeing the video of the Institute's testing, the president of the American Trucking Associations acknowledged that the current standards were unacceptable. But, he added, the right barrier design is a "complicated puzzle to solve."

Resource: ABC News online, "Truck Underride Accidents: Drivers Endangered When Cars Slide Under Trailers," Lisa Stark, 3/1/2011

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